Earlier today Drays Bay compared Jason Bartlett’s 2008 defensive metrics to previous years and wondered why he was “not as good as perceived” prior to the season.

Essentially every metric that had a crush on Bartlett prior to 2008 gave him the cold shoulder. That’s bad, namely because those same metrics gave us hope that Bartlett was a defensive wizard, and while he looked good, he apparently was not as good as perceived. The problem for us, and the Rays, is deciding whether this is indicative of a true talent change or simply an anomaly.

Other than the obvious explanations, such as his shoulder injury in April and the knee injury late in the season, there is another simple explanation for the statistical drop-off in Bartlett’s defense.

Evan Longoria.

Below you will see a graph representing Bartlett’s 2007 “Probabilistic Model of Range” as presented by Baseball Musings.

A couple of quick notes on the graph…

  • The far left portion of the graph represents the third base line, while the far right represents the first base line. “2B” represents the second base bag.
  • The peak of the graph in essence represents where Bartlett would usually be positioned. So anything to the left of the peak represents groundballs that Bartlett would have to move to his right (towards third base) to field. While anything to the right of the peak represents groundballs that Bartlett would have to move towards the second base bag to field.

As we can see, Bartlett fielded more groundballs in 2007 than would be predicted. However, Bartlett was much better moving towards third base (left of the peak on the graph). Bartlett’s actual outs were much higher than predicted on balls hit right at him and on groundballs to his right (towards third base). On groundballs hit to his left (towards second base) Bartlett was only average.

This is where Longoria comes in. Baseball Musings does not have Bartlett’s graph for 2008 yet, but we can compare the Probabilistic Model of Range for Bartlett’s third basemen in 2007 and 2008.

In 2007, Twins third basemen ranked 25th in baseball, making 13 fewer outs than predicted. On the other hand, in 2008, Longoria ranked 3rd in the majors in Probabilistic Model of Range for third basemen, making 17 more outs than expected. That is a difference of 30 outs by third basemen from 2007 to 2008.

This is important because a third baseman is closer to the batter and essentially has “dibs” on balls hit in the hole between the shortstop and third baseman. A third baseman with excellent range, like Longoria, means fewer balls are getting to the shortstop. And it is those groundballs that Bartlett feasted on in 2007.

A healthy Bartlett will go a long way towards reestablishing him as one of the premiere defensive shortstops in baseball (statistically), but as long as Longoria is manning the hot corner, Bartlett no longer has to be Superman.

On Bartlett’s Defense [Drays Bay]
Probabilistic Model of Range, Third Basemen, 2007 [Baseball Musings]
Probabilistic Model of Range, 2008, Third Basemen [Baseball Musings]



  1. DirtbagFan says:

    Interesting perspective.... so if Bartlett gets to use Dirtbags "Awesomeness" as an excuse... what does Gomes get to use as his...

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes the most simple explanations are the most telling. Everything is relative. I still think Bartlett, no Longoria, is a lock for Rays' MVP.

  3. The Ray Way says:

    So. If the Rays have above-average defense at second and third, I would think that would make Bartlett expendable if his defense is not as necessary.

  4. The Professor says:

    a little more so, but I still would be surprised if Bartlett is moved. Looking at the graph shows that Bartlett is still above average on groundballs hit right at him or near him, which shows he is dependable when healthy. It is just the groundballs deep in the hole that he may not have to make very often.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Also, I wonder what effect all of the infielders had on each other. For example, Aki looked amazing last year defensively and showed great range, however, according to multiple fielding metrics, he was average. As in, he made the exact number of plays he should have, none less, none extra. We all know how amazing Pena is to his right, so im sure just like with Bartlett, Pena took some plays away from Aki and made him "average". Surely Aki and Bartlett however really didnt effect each other.

    - bossmanjunior333

  6. The Professor says:

    Aki might have had a small effect. On the graph we see Bartlett was average to his left but was actually a little above average on groundballs on the other side of second base. It is only a handful of plays, it those might have gone to Aki in 2008

  7. Anonymous says:

    You might want to see if you can find anything on Brignac. I'd be interesting to see how good he really is defensively after being named best defensibe infielder in the rays system 2 years in a row. I remember asking brignac about it 2 years ago and he said it happened because of hard work. haha of course the way I posed the question was " So you were rated the best defensive infielder in the organization...how the hell did that happen?" thankfully he didnt take offense haha.

    - bossmanjunior333

  8. Anonymous says:

    If a great 3B/2B mattered, Yuniesky Betancourt would be the best SS in the league.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hey look, Jason Bartlett was Hanley Remirez esque with the glove according to PMR:


  10. The Professor says:

    Re: Betancourt

    None of this has much to do with how good or bad a defender is. The question here is why one defender would drop so much in one season.

    All I am pointing out is that Bartlett may have fewer opportunities while playing with a third baseman that has excellent range. This are things the range models and other metrics can't take into account. And in fact might handicap Bartlett's values.

    Bartlett is far superior than Betancourt. And the fat that Betancourt still sucks even with a solid 3B/2B combo goes to show you exactly how bad he is and how important a good defensive shortstop is, even with good wingmen

  11. David G. says:

    "If a great 3B/2B mattered, Yuniesky Betancourt would be the best SS in the league."

    WTF are you even talking about?

    RJ said the same thing on DRB. Nobody is saying a good 3B and 2B can cover the entire infield only more than normal. SS still has to make plays.

  12. Elijah's 6th Love Child says:

    I love a lot of the new age stats. but what kills me about statheads is that they always want a more complicated answer when sometimes a simple answer works just fine.

  13. Raysmond's Evil Twin Brother says:

    not sure if you saw it yet or not. But RJ put up a post with a link that supposedly proves you wrong only it actually proves what you wrote.

    from the link on DRB-
    "you can see that there is quite a bit of overlap between the area covered by the third baseman and the area covered by the shortstop"

    i am not really sure why he thinks that proves you wrong when that is exactly what you wrote here. and the way i see it, if there is "quite a bit of overlap" between an average 3B and an average SS, then there must be an enormous amount of overlap between Longo and Bartman.

  14. Anonymous says:

    i read the same thing. in fact i read it twice because i couldn't figure out what RJs point was. It seemed to me the entire article said the same thing Rays Index was saying.

  15. The Professor says:

    I never said this was going to be the case for all shortstops and third basemen. And I didn't say it was the only reason for Bartlett. He did spend a good portion of the year fighting injuries.

    My point here is that Bartlett is a very specialized case. Yes he was above average in 2007, *but* he is mostly above average towards third base. He had a third baseman with much better range in 2008. It is only LOGICAL that Bartlett would make fewer plays towards third base in 2008.

    These are things the metrics can't account for. All they know is did he make a play or not.

    It doesn't take much to see that.

  16. rglass44 says:

    Per the Fielding Bible numbers, Longo made an additional 5 plays to his left over an average 3B. If you consider those outs that Bartlett didn't make that still doesn't explain the TREMENDOUS drop-off. Maybe that along with injury and age issues explain it, but I have a hard time believing that Bartlett makes plays that an average 3B gets to as your comment of playing with a -13 defender does.

  17. rglass44 says:

    "For example, Aki looked amazing last year defensively and showed great range, however, according to multiple fielding metrics, he was average. As in, he made the exact number of plays he should have, none less, none extra. We all know how amazing Pena is to his right, so im sure just like with Bartlett, Pena took some plays away from Aki and made him "average". Surely Aki and Bartlett however really didnt effect each other."

    Aki was a good 3B defensively, but 2B have better range so he goes from having + range to average.

  18. The Professor says:

    It is not just 5 plays. It is 5 plays plus the X number his 3B didn't make last year. And I never said Dirtbag was the only reason. The injuries were certainly more important. Back In April JB couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. It is just easier to measure the effect of an improved 3B than it is to measure the effect of injuries.

    Occam's Razor: the simplest answer is usually correct.

  19. Diana says:

    waah..waah...-draysbay official release towards raysindex and it's author who shall not be named...

  20. Justin says:

    I just want to point out that drays bay has this weird hatred towards certain players on the Rays.

    Bartlett is PEFECT example. For some reason, and DESPITE the fact that Maddon called him the difference maker for the team, drays bay knocks Bartlett. They joke about him being called MVP, and while I will agree that statistically (or I should say in the fake world of statistical isolation) he is not the best player, I'm going to go with Papa Joe/the intangibles here.

    I hope the Rays keep Bartlett. I trust him at SS, and he has a great thing with Aki going.

    Plus I FEEL as if he were a difference maker at the plate. He wasn't a HR guy at all, but it all goes back to the little piranhas. Small ball.

  21. Robert Rittner says:

    I haven't seen any particular antipathy to Bartlett at DRays Bay. First of all there are quite a few contributors there and while some have been critical there has been no overwhelming support for diminishing Bartlett's significance. For most of the season Bartlett has been something of a favorite of many contributors there and was often cited as a key acquisition and evidence of the Rays' management's smarts.

    As for the MVP argument, I have been among those defending the choice of Bartlett (not by referring to intangibles but for other reasons. One of my reasons is that I simply think the selection of Bartlett comes from differing interpretations of the concept of MVP and am willing to concede that other interpretations can be defended.)

    Actually, I would not have chosen Bartlett, and do not take Maddon's comments as conclusive for many reasons. (He also tagged Howell with an MVP title at one point.) The mocking of the choice by a few I found excessive, but it was the MVP selection that was being mocked, not Bartlett, nor did anyone say he was not instrumental in helping the Rays win.

    Any time analysts provide statistical evidence to support a view that criticizes someone's favorite player or team the analyst is attacked as being biased. Naturally stats can be used poorly, and can provide specious evidence for dubious conclusions. But to claim that, one needs to critique the evidence itself, not make some general attack. Demonstrate that it is incomplete or misleading or poorly interpreted or irrelevant or whatever.

    Apparently all the data indicates that Bartlett was not a particularly good defender in 2008. That is not an attack on him or the Rays; it is entirely neutral. The Professor has offered a reasonable explanation of why the data might be misleading. R.J has also made a strong case that it is not, and not simply with that link. The Professor's rebuttal (concerning the specific zone of the overlap) is also something to consider. But all in all, whichever argument one finds more convincing, there is no preconceived bias evident.

    The only other issue being raised is the unsubstantiated rumor that the Rays are willing to deal Bartlett. Some see that as an intelligent move if the return is adequate; others are wary of depending on Brignac or bringing in someone else. Again, it is a perfectly legitimate discussion and indicates no lack of respect for Bartlett.


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